To get it off my mind while I write the rest of this, I’ll start with an agitating, scholarly question: What is (still/even) left out of an archive that preserves everything on the Internet? Though a discussion of the readings for this week, and the sites we’ve looked at, I hope we can have a fruitful discussion about the modern “archiving impulse,” what gets archived, and how technology might mediate what artifacts or archival material is preserved in the archive (and what is considered ephemeral). As Thelwall and Vaughan’s article notes, the archive of material in the Internet Archive is large and comprehensive, but still biased and “selective” in ways that are tied, historically if not politically, to the Internet’s contextual development and circumstances.
In Deborah Thomas’s Caribbean Studies, Archive Building, and the Problem of Violence, the article begins with a quote from David Scott: “an archive is not merely a collection; rather it is a generative system….” Archives produce in several ways, and engage in what Thomas groups into two types of projects: vindicating projects and reparative projects. Throughout the essay, the archive is interrogated for being both part of a vindicating project that asserts the validity or relevance of its subject (often, black Caribbean regions, nations, groups, or beyond) and a reparative project that seeks to link historical materialism and events to contemporary social formations for social justice and change. Thomas aligns vindicating projects with the recent (post)colonial period and the development of Caribbean self-governing nation-states while reparative projects seek continuity with the African diaspora and its traditions while refusing to apologize for compensate for the non-European origin of ideologies, idioms, or cultural products, embracing alternative ontologies and epistemologies.
Thomas concludes her piece with a discussion about the possibility of archiving violence, asking what would happen if we “applied the same impetus (evidence generation, claim making, vindication, and, perhaps ultimately, repair) to the study of violence that we have applied to the study of slavery, governance, family formation, and expressive cultural practices?” (36) By producing an archive of violence, a voluntary archive of information that would link seemingly unrelated acts to one another and larger (social scientific) patterns of oppression through and across time and space, refuting the trope that “black people have a culture of violence” (35) with evidence that links violent acts to social, historical, and economic formations. I am interested in the “archive of additional forms”—an involuntary archive—such a voluntary archive would produce. However, I think that issues of representation, access, visuality, and reification problematize an archive of violence, in particular. Also, when dealing with the rules and limitations (or at the very least, categories) of the archive as it currently exists, what sort of violence would count and how? Domestic violence, mugging, epistemic violence, and institutional violence are arbitrary categories that might relate or intersect, but not necessarily, at different times and spaces. Is it even advantageous to create a taxonomy or hierarchy of violence?
For your consideration, I’ve also brought together a few resources we’ve talked about at some point in the semester.
Interventions into the archive that we might discuss:
Ruddy Roye, Black Portraiture series http://ruddyroye.tumblr.com/
Companions to print/literary/paper interventions to the archive:
Zong! Digital companion: http://zong.site.wesleyan.edu/
As Flies to Whatless Boys Digital Companion: http://whatlessboys.com/
I think each of these projects uses, forges, and creates documents and documentation that asks us to interrogate the phrase “Which one is real” and why that matters (either in each particular case or in general).
Finally (and a bit disorganized): One of the things at issue here, at least to me, is the insistence on knowing and aggregating information (all of it!) with the attempt at mastery. It seems like if this is constantly the goal then we haven’t escaped the Enlightenment empiricism and rationality that is undergirded by racialized hierarchies of colonialism, mercantilism, and global capitalism. I know that that is a very popular critique to make from within my safe space within the academy, with all the privileges that come with it and my particular geo-political social position, but I think it touches on something that is of legitimate concern: there are still some things that defy or refuse (textual, linguistic, or imagistic, etc.) representation (not even all bad things like trauma). What do we do and how do we account for those? Affect, mood, expression, lines of type that you think of typing and then delete because you thought better of it, these are things that coexist and make up our embodied, phenomenological, and digital existence. They defy commensurability.